Family Ties - (Book 3 of the Marvelous 3 Saga)

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45 - A Spark of Hope

“OW! Jeez! I tell you that I’m a hybrid, and you send a boulder flying towards me?” Jackson chuckled as he rubbed the side of his head.

“I don’t believe you,” Kiara snarled at him. “How do you know my name? How did you find me? I need answers. Now.”

“You are no joke,” Jackson grinned. “Your caution is fair. I did kind of just pop up out of nowhere. Well, as I said, my name is Jackson. I know your name because, well... who doesn’t? You’re the most powerful witch of today and a phoenix witch at that. Broke a generational curse that impacted thousands of vampires. Took on multiple vampire clans. Brought yourself back to life...”

Jackson walked up to Kiara as she took a tentative step back. “You’re kind of a big deal,” he smirked at her.

Kiara squinted her eyes suspiciously. “And how did you find me?”

Jackson tapped his nose. “I picked up your scent. It’s quite nice actually. Sweet... soft... kind of what I was expecting you to be rather than a fire-breathing dragon,” he teased.

Kiara rolled her eyes. “As I said... you caught me at a bad time...”

“Which brings me to my next point,” Jackson said, taking another step towards her. He reached for her stomach, and she immediately took a step back and sent him flying back.

“The hell is wrong with you?!” she snarled at him. “You don’t just go touching some random woman’s belly!”

Jackson sat up, rubbing his head again. “I just thought-”

“Not even non-witches like that! Are you just completely out of touch?!” Kiara snapped at him.

“Okay... We clearly got off on the wrong foot here,” Jackson sighed.

“Ya think?” Kiara snarked. “Your creep factor is off the charts, bro.”

Jackson chuckled. “Cute, badass, and funny.”

“I will throw another boulder,” she threatened.

Jackson put his hands up in surrender. “Forgive me. I’m a bit of a loner, so perhaps... I am ’out of touch’. It’s not like there’s a lot of people lining up to talk to an ‘abomination’ like me...”

Kiara eyed the suddenly somber demeanor of the hybrid sitting on the ground in front of her and softened her stance. “You’re really a... hybrid?” she asked. “A vampire-wolf hybrid?”

Jackson stood to his feet and slowly approached her. His blue eyes stared down at her as if he were reading her face. He pulled his hand from his pocket and went to grab hers when she instinctively pulled back from him. She looked at him confused. “What are you-”

“You can see memories, right?” Jackson asked, reaching for her hand again. “See mine.”

Kiara hesitated for a moment before she gave him her hand. He stared into her eyes as he lifted her hand to the side of his face and pressed her fingers against his temple. Kiara’s eyes rolled to the back of her head as her mind flashed. Jackson watched curiously as her pupils moved sporadically. Her eyebrows creased with concern as her facial muscles tensed in angst. She abruptly let go of him and stumbled backward when Jackson quickly caught her. “Woah! You okay?” he asked, pulling her back towards him.

“Yea,” Kiara said, rubbing her head. “Still trying to get the hang of this thing...” She looked up at him with concern in her eyes. “...your mother...”

Jackson nervously exhaled as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Yea... things weren’t exactly... easy for us...” He ran his fingers through his short blonde hair as he took a deep breath. “Even though wolves and vampires empirically despise each other, there are little... quirks... here and there,” Jackson explained. “That causes anomalies like... me.”

Jackson turned to face her. “In the early 1800s, my father was a wolf. He fell in love and impregnated my mother who was a mortal. A mortal who was still attached and living with her uncle who was a newly-turned vampire. Her uncle did not approve of her relationship with my father, but, well... he did love her, and thus he allowed it. Unfortunately... while pregnant with me, my mother was harmed in a factory explosion. She lost a lot of blood and almost died. But my uncle couldn’t bear to let her go. And so... he turned her... resulting in her giving birth to a vampire-wolf hybrid.”

Kiara looked at him wide-eyed. “I’m so sorry!”

Jackson smiled sadly. “There have only been a handful of vampire-wolf hybrids on this planet. And they were all massacred. Hunted down and brutally killed because they were seen as an abomination...” A flicker of fear flashed in Kiara’s eyes as she instinctively touched her stomach. Jackson frowned. “The same oracle who has threatened your unborn was the same one who threatened my mother.”

Kiara’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head. “Are you serious?!” she asked. Jackson nodded. “But then... how did-” Kiara started.

“My mother pleaded for my life,” Jackson said.

“That’s it?” she asked.

Jackson chuckled. “I wish... In the end, my mother gave her life for mine. The oracle wanted to be sure she never birthed something like... me... again...”

Kiara covered her mouth in horror. “Oh my god... I’m so-”

Jackson shook his head. “It’s alright. I’ve made peace with it. My vampire uncle and my wolf father begged the oracle for my life. It might have been that she had never seen a wolf and vampire come together for anything except at that moment. She may have thought that if I had the capability to help them see past their hatred for each other... I was worth allowing to live.”

Kiara furrowed her brows as she waited for him to continue. “The oracle made a deal with my father and uncle. She agreed to spare my life if I followed her rituals and was raised by her rules so as not to turn to the darkness as the other hybrids did,” Jackson explained.

Kiara looked at Jackson confused as he walked up to her. He grabbed her hand between his and looked into her eyes. “I believe your unborn deserves the same chance that I had...” Jackson said seriously. “He...or she... or maybe even them-”

“THEM?!” Kiara blurted.

Jackson chuckled with a shrug. “You never know.”

“Don’t be putting that ish out into the universe. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the tribrid bit!” she panicked as he laughed.

“Right...” he grinned. “I shouldn’t be here. And if not for someone fighting for my life, I wouldn’t be.”

Kiara looked up at him and took a deep breath. “But why? You... You don’t even know me.”

Jackson shrugged. “I’m the last of my kind left,” he said, looking down at her belly. “Your child should not be punished because of the actions of a few.” Kiara’s shoulders fell as Jackson looked back into her eyes. “Perhaps... with my help, Kifo will change her mind about my kind,” he looked at her belly again. “Our kind.”

“But Kifo says my child will bring about the apocalypse.”

“Because of the darkness,” Jackson said. “Or what you witches call ‘the aether’.” Kiara shivered slightly as she remembered how the aether allowed her to become possessed by Melissa, and she nearly killed all of her family and friends.

“Wolves, vampires, and witches are all susceptible to falling to the darkness if they haven’t already,” Jackson explained. “But they are still manageable, controllable… killable. Kifo is not concerned with them. Witch hybrids are still manageable because witches have a tie to mortals in a way that wolves and vampires don’t. But a vampire-wolf hybrid is the furthest thing from humanity, making them not only the strongest but the most susceptible to the darkness and the hardest to kill. So... you can understand why a tribrid is out of the question.”

“Yea, I guess that makes sense,” Kiara frowned as she looked down. “My child... my vision...”

“Can still change,” Jackson said. “And that’s what I’m hoping to convince Kifo.”

Kiara looked at him as a small smile came to her face. “I don’t know what to say...”

Jackson smirked. “Thank you?” he laughed. “Were you really going to take her on your own?”

“Of course,” Kiara said. “I have to protect my family.”

“You’re powerful, Kiara. But, so is she... Not in brute strength, but through manipulation. I’ve seen her in action. I’ve been a victim to her tactics myself...” Jackson sighed.

Kiara shook her head. “I had to do something. I refuse to let anyone else die on my behalf. That’s why I had to sneak by my mates. They would have thought I was crazy.”

“Courage is often mistaken for insanity,” Jackson said to her. “I admire your love for your... mates.”

Kiara smiled as she picked up her bag and started walking again. “We should hurry up before-” Suddenly, Jackson went flying into the air. Kiara’s eyes widened in shock as she watched Leo pounce on top of Jackson and grab him by the neck before smashing him into a tree. “WAIT! LEO!” Kiara shrieked.

Alexander flashed in front of Jackson and grabbed him by his neck, pinning him to the tree. He snarled as he shoved his hand into Jackson’s chest. “ALEXANDER, NO!” Kiara screamed. She raised her hands and sent both Leo and Alexander flying in the air. Jackson sank to the ground with a huge hole in his chest. Kiara ran up to Jackson and put her hands in her hair in exasperation to see his lifeless body against the base of the tree.

“KIARA, WHAT THE FUCK?!”

She turned around to see an angry Leo stalking towards her as Alexander instantly appeared next to her. “Guys!” she said, freaking out. “He was our only hope! He was going to help us!”

“What are you talking about?!” Alexander snarled. “And how could you enchant us like that?! What has gotten into you, Kiara?!”

“Alexander,” she cried as she put her face into his chest. “I was trying to save you! I was trying to save all of you!”

“By facing that fucking oracle on your own?! Have you lost your damn mind?!” Leo growled.

“Jackson was going to help me,” Kiara sobbed into Alexander’s chest. “He wasn’t hurting me, guys. He was helping me.”

Alexander looked at Leo as they exchanged confused expressions. “I don’t... understand...” Leo said, scratching the back of his head. “We thought you were in danger, Angel...”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, wafting her face into Alexander’s chest. “He’s... he’s dead.”

“Actually, being a vampire-wolf hybrid, our tissue regeneration works twice as fast as both wolves and vampires.”

Kiara, Alexander, and Leo looked to the tree to see Jackson standing to his feet. He rubbed at his ripped sweater that no longer sported a hole in his chest. “Took a little longer than usual though,” Jackson chuckled. “You Blackbournes and Volkovs far supersede your kind. Damn that hurt.”

“What... the... fuck?” Leo said stunned.

“You’re a... a vampire-wolf... hybrid?” Alexander asked, shocked.

“Please, don’t be alarmed,” Jackson said, putting his hands up. “I’m here to help your mate not harm her. Luckily for me, you didn’t pull my heart out of my chest. Sheesh! I’ve never been caught off guard like that. Goddamn!”

“Jackson!” Kiara said relieved as she ran to him.

Alexander’s jaw tensed and Leo clenched his fist as they watched Kiara tend to Jackson to make sure he was okay. “Kiara, what the hell is going on?” Leo said annoyed.

~

“And then, he’s going to speak to the oracle on our behalf. On our baby’s behalf,” Kiara said, touching her stomach. “This doesn’t have to end in bloodshed. No one has to die.” Alexander and Leo exchanged uncertain looks after Kiara relayed to them Jackson’s plan. “Guys?” she said, trying to get their attention.

“Kiara, you barely know this guy,” Alexander said, looking at her. “Where he comes from. Who he is. How do you know we can trust him?”

“I saw his memories,” she said. “He’s telling the truth.”

“He fucking touched you?!” Leo growled.

“Leo...” Kiara groaned, covering her face.

“Now I’m really gonna kill the motherfucker,” Leo snapped. He turned to head towards Jackson before Kiara grabbed his hand and pulled him back.

“Leo, please!” she said, looking at him. “We’re running out of options.”

“We’ll find a way, Kiara,” Leo said angrily. “But this shit ain’t it!”

“Leo,” Alexander said, catching his gaze. The two of them shared a look as if they were speaking with their eyes before Leo rolled his eyes in aggravation.

“Fine...” Leo muttered.

“What the-” Kiara said, looking between the two of them. “What did you guys just do?”

Alexander looked at her strangely. “What?”

“Why did it look like you guys were just reading each other’s thoughts or something?” she asked.

“It’s just a soul bond, thing, Angel. We’ve had that from the moment Alexander marked you,” Leo said.

“Wha?! But I’ve been trying to form that link with you guys forever!” she blurted.

“We’ll work on it,” Alexander smirked. “Go get your... hybrid friend so we can talk.” Kiara shook her head and left to go fetch Jackson.

“I don’t like this, Alexander...” Leo said, watching Kiara talk to Jackson.

“I know...” Alexander muttered. “I don’t like the way he looks at her either. I’d like to think it’s just my jealousy or something, but... I just...” Alexander looked at Leo and shook his head. “We have to give him a chance. If there’s a way we can get out of this without bloodshed, we at least need to try.” Leo grumbled under his breath as Kiara walked back towards them with Jackson in tow.

“Are we starting ov-” Jackson started.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” Leo cut him off. “We don’t trust you. I don’t give a shit what you told our mate. We,” Leo said, gesturing between him and Alexander. “Don’t trust you. And we don’t appreciate you talking to our mate, let alone touching her.”

“That’s fair,” Jackson said with his hands up in surrender. “It was not my intent to offend or cross any boundaries.” Alexander eyed Jackson, trying to read him. Jackson locked eyes with Alexander and cocked his head to the side. “You remind me a bit of William,” Jackson said curiously.

“What the fuck did you just say?!” Alexander growled. Jackson’s eyes widened. He backed up as Leo and Kiara tried to hold Alexander back.

“Alexander, please,” Kiara begged.

“Calm down,” Leo ordered, holding Alexander by his shoulders.

“Did I say something wrong?” Jackson asked.

“Do you know who William is?” Kiara said, turning to Jackson.

“Well, yes. He’s a pretty old vampire and one of the many who tried to weaponize me. But I wouldn’t allow it,” Jackson said. “He’s not exactly a kind guy.”

“Well, he’s Alexander’s creator,” Kiara sighed.

“Oh... I...” Jackson said remorsefully. He looked at Alexander apologetically. “My apologies.”

“Unnecessary. The motherfucker is dead,” Alexander said coldly.

Jackson looked at him surprised. “Well then. Please forgive me. I’m a bit far more out of touch than I realized.”

Alexander took a deep breath as he tried to relax. He motioned to Leo and Kiara that he was fine, and they both let him go. “If you’re so out of touch, how the hell do you expect to win over this oracle?” Alexander snapped.

Jackson looked at Alexander more seriously. “We have history. She basically raised me until she felt I was prepared enough to be on my own. I’ve done things for her... things I’m not... necessarily proud of, and she knows that... She owes me.”

“And we would owe you,” Leo said to him. “If you do this for us, we would owe you. Wouldn’t we?”

Jackson shook his head with a smirk. “Man, you Volkovs really are paranoid. Is it really so hard to believe I’m doing this because I want to?”

“Yes,” Alexander and Leo said at the same time.

Jackson looked at them and sighed. “That’s understandable. Surely you guys have been through a lot.” Jackson set his eyes on Kiara, and a smile came to his face. “But I’ve wandered this earth alone for far too long. I’m tired of being feared. Disregarded. All because I became something I never asked for in the first place. So in a way, this is kind of selfish of me. I want to help so I’m not the only one anymore. Surely you guys know what that must feel like...”

Kiara looked up at Jackson and returned the smile before she looked at Alexander and Leo. “Guys?” she said to them. “Please. We need this.”

Alexander deeply exhaled as Leo pinched his nose. “Our mate trusts you,” Alexander said, squeezing Kiara’s hand. “So, we’ll give you a chance... But, you have to meet the rest of our family. The Volkovs and the Blackbournes. You need buy-in with them as well.”

Jackson opened his arms. “I have nothing to hide.”

~*~

“Okay, but why is he so cute...” Ava said, glancing at Jackson as he spoke to Gina, Nick, Elijah, and Marshala.

“Right?!” Rhea blurted. “I was trying not to say anything but damn.”

“Cole and Levi are literally standing right there,” Kiara said, poking both sisters. “Alexander almost tore Jackson’s heart out of his chest. Please do not provoke them.”

“Okay, but the beard,” Rhea said.

“And that smile,” Ava sighed.

“He looks like a GQ model,” Rhea smirked.

“A rugged GQ model,” Ava nodded.

“You guys are actually the worst,” Kiara laughed. “Come on.”

Alexander’s jaw tensed as Nick and Elijah approached him. “Like where the fuck did this asshole even come from?” Cole muttered. “Kiara just found him out of nowhere?”

“No. He found her,” Leo said tightly.

“Really,” Levi said flatly. “This Prince Charming looking bitch just happens to find your mate? Yea, that’s not fucking suspicious at all.”

“That’s what I said!” Leo snapped.

“We need... to consider... all... of our options...” Alexander muttered tensely as he watched the girls laugh at whatever Jackson said.

“I can tell you’re trying to be the voice of reason here,” Cole said. “But I can literally feel your anger.” Alexander looked at Cole who quirked a curious brow. “You wanna kill him,” Cole smirked.

“Yea, kinda,” Alexander admitted as Cole burst out laughing.

“Well, all the women seem to love him,” Peter smirked as the rest of them tensed up in frustration. “Are you sure jealousy is not the reason for your disdain?”

“What the fuck do I have to be jealous of?” Levi growled.

“Fuck that pretty boy,” Cole snarled.

“I was talking to Leo and Alexander,” Peter grinned.

Levi and Cole looked at Peter angrily as they both flushed over. “I hate your brother,” Levi said to Cole.

“Yea, fuck you, Peter,” Cole said, flipping him off.

~

“He’s beautiful,” Jackson said, eyeing a tiny sleeping Dimitri in Marshala’s arms. “He reminds me a lot of myself. Vampire-witch hybrids are only born when a witch is turned. Never has there been one born through a mortal birth. He’s an anomaly... much like myself.”

Jackson smiled as he saw Dimitri’s tiny hand open. “May I?” Jackson asked, looking at Marshala. She smiled and nodded. Jackson stuck his finger in Dimitri’s tiny grasp. Jackson smiled brightly until he hissed as he yanked his finger back. He looked at it to see the skin was singed off before quickly healing.

“Oh jeez! I’m so sorry!” Marshala said, clutching Dimitri. “He’s never done that before. We’re still learning his powers.”

Jackson chuckled. “No worries. He’ll be fun to teach and learn from. Enjoy it. I surely enjoyed learning from my father and uncle.”

Kiara looked down to see Nikolai clutching her leg. “Hey, Niko. You okay?” She bent down and picked him up. Nikolai looked at her stomach before looking at Jackson with wonderment. Jackson smiled as he walked up to Nikolai.

“Hi, you,” Jackson smirked. Nikolai shrunk back slightly as he nestled further into Kiara’s arms.

“Niko!” Kiara laughed. “He is not shy at all. Niko, stop frontin’.”

“It’s alright. I am a stranger after all,” Jackson smiled. “You and I are a lot alike, you know.”

Nikolai looked at Jackson curiously as he cocked his head to the side. “Really?” Nikolai squeaked.

“Hybrid,” Jackson said, pointing to himself. “Hybrid,” he said, pointing to Nikolai.

“Isn’t that cool, Niko,” Kiara smiled. Nikolai cracked a small smile as he nervously nodded his head.

“Unlike me, you’ll have a brother to bond with,” Jackson said. “And soon... a cousin,” Jackson said, looking at Kiara’s stomach. Kiara smiled warmly as Jackson locked eyes with her again. “Provided everything goes according to plan, I can help Nikolai and Dimitri to embrace being hybrids as well,” Jackson said.

“That’d be wonderful, right Niko,” Kiara said, hugging Nikolai tighter.

Alexander clenched and released his fist as he watched Kiara and Jackson talking. He didn’t like the way Jackson looked at her. He didn’t like how comfortable he was touching her. It irked him to his core. He didn’t want to admit that what he might be feeling was pure jealousy.

“Well, Gina and Marshala seem to like him,” Elijah said, walking up to Alexander.

“Perhaps he has bewitched them as well...” Alexander muttered.

Elijah looked at his brother and frowned. “I don’t like it either, Alexander. But... he does seem promising...”

Alexander looked at Elijah and sighed with frustration. “I should be grateful for him. He has offered to help not only my mate but my unborn child. Then why am I not elated?”

“Because we are possessive creatures, brother,” Elijah said. “Possessive and protective. And I have sensed Jackson’s heightened scent around your mate as I’m sure you have.”

“He’s attracted to her,” Nick said, walking up to them with a frustrated Leo. “I’m keeping my eye on him... as well as my brother here so he doesn’t end up killing what seems to be the only non-violent option we have right now,” Nick smirked, grabbing Leo’s shoulder.

Leo muttered in aggravation. “Do we really need him?” he groaned.

“Yes, we do,” Gina said, walking up to them. “What’s wrong with you lot,” she said, looking at the four of them. “This man is offering to help, and you’re treating him like the enemy. He’s living proof that your child has a chance at survival.”

“Gina...” Alexander sighed.

“I get it,” she said, stopping him. “He has a particular set of eyes for Kiara. But he’s probably just intrigued by her because let’s face it... she’s as rare as he is. He’s found another friend. It only makes sense. Besides, Kiara is in love and bound to the two of you and only you.”

“It’s not Kiara we’re worried about,” Alexander said.

Gina shook her head. “Your mate’s life is on the line. Your mate and your unborn child. Put your jealousy aside for a moment and think about them. This could either end in bloodshed or it could end with peace. The choice is yours.”

Leo and Alexander exchanged defeated looks before they set their eyes back on their lover.

~

“This is like the fourth interrogation I’m going through today,” Jackson chuckled. He sat in a chair staring up at a very impatient Elijah, Nick, Alexander, and Leo.

“We just have a few questions for you before we go through with this,” Elijah said. “Kiara is a critical part of our family. She may be the most powerful witch, but her safety is still our number one priority. Surely, you understand why we must take precautions.”

Jackson nodded. “Of course. I know how protective you all are. I just want to help.” Leo turned around, rolling his eyes. Alexander grabbed his shoulder and gave him a look of warning. “Look, I get it,” Jackson said. “You have every right to be suspicious of me. Honestly, if I knew you guys would be this skeptical I would have rethought my approach. But honestly... this,” he said, gesturing to the four of them. “Is rare.”

The four of them looked at him curiously. “Wolves and vampires getting along? Treating each other like...family? It’s unheard of,” Jackson explained. “I’ve never seen the two species come together like this before since my uncle and father pleaded for my life. This... this is something special...”

Elijah looked at Nick and they shared a few moments together. They could tell there was something a bit deeper with this guy. “Your circumstances have been unfortunate. But understand that we don’t just accept anyone into this circle,” Elijah said.

“So, the question is... what are your true motives?” Nick asked. “What’s in it for you?”

Jackson looked at him curiously. “There’s nothin-”

“Bullshit,” Nick snapped. “You can put that show on for the women but not for us. We see right through that shit.” Nick leaned forward and locked eyes with Jackson as his eyes flickered amber.

“What’s. In it. For you?

~*~

Kiara stepped outside to get some fresh air. The tension radiating from her mates was overwhelming. She had to trust that they would make the right decision for their family.

She heard cooing and looked down in her arms to see Dimitri staring up at her with big bright blue eyes. They looked just like Elijah’s. His pure white hair almost made him look like an old man. But his face was young and fresh. “You’re so freaking cute,” she said, nudging Dimitri’s chest. “I can’t wait to give you and Niko a cousin to have play dates with...”

When Dimitri grabbed her finger, she felt a warm feeling flood her that settled into her stomach. She looked at Dimitri in confusion as he kept his eyes locked on her. “You already know him... or her... don’t you?” Kiara smiled. She leaned down and kissed Dimitri on the forehead. Suddenly, she saw a car pull up to their house. She clutched Dimitri tighter with one hand as her other hand became encircled with a green glow.

Out of the car stepped Lillian and Alice, the two witches she had met from New Orleans. Kiara tensed as she stepped back and Marshala, Rhea, and Gina came running out of the house. “Alice?” Marshala said, surprised.

“Marshala...” Alice said, walking up to her. She held her niece Amy’s hand.

“Didn’t this bitch try to kill Kiara?” Gina muttered to Marshala.

“Stop right there,” Rhea ordered. Alice sighed as she looked at Lillian who sported the same look of regret.

“Marshala!” Amy squealed. She ran up to Marshala and hugged her tightly. Marshala couldn’t help but envelop the 12-year old girl in her arms. “Thank you for saving me, Marshala,” Amy said, hugging her.

Marshala chuckled. “Actually, Kiara’s the one who saved you,” she said, looking at Kiara who still seemed a bit confused by what was going on.

“You’re the Super Witch!” Amy said excitedly.

“The super what now?” Kiara asked, startled.

“The Super Witch!” Amy said gleefully. “You saved so many people! You’re like Super Girl but a witch. You’re Super Witch!”

“Oh, I like her,” Kiara chuckled. “Nick said I couldn’t have a superhero name. HA! Take that, Volkov!”

Marshala glanced up at Alice and walked towards her. “What are you doing here?” Marshala asked.

“Well, we were originally coming to see you after we heard about your children,” Alice smiled. “Congratulations.”

Marshala gave a small smile back. “Thank you, Alice...”

“And then... we heard about Kiara... and her tribrid... and the oracle,” Lillian said, walking up to them.

“Whose big ass mouth-” Rhea started.

“The spirits are talkative,” Alice chuckled. “And with our line... we’re far more connected. Far more tied to each other.” Marshala could see the regret in Alice’s face. “I’m so... so sorry, Marshala,” Alice said, grabbing her hand. “We didn’t... we were just trying to save Amy...”

“It’s okay, Alice. I understand,” Marshala said comfortingly. “I am sorry about Roger and Lya...” Lillian wiped a tear from her face as she looked down.

“The good thing is that William is gone. Our people are free from him. Thanks to Kiara,” Alice said, looking at Kiara. Kiara watched as Alice approached her. “There aren’t enough words to express how sorry we are for the part we played in what happened to you. The need to save family makes people... desperate,” Alice said.

Kiara clutched Dimitri tighter and nodded. “It’s natural. I understand. I just thought you guys were going to embrace me as family, not give me up to William.”

“It was a huge mistake. But we didn’t know what else to do. We underestimated you. We should have taken the time to learn about you. Help you first, instead of falling prey to William’s threats,” Alice said. “We understand if you never forgive us.”

Kiara smiled as she took Alice’s hand. “Our people have been through too much suffering to not be there for each other. It is forgiven.” Alice smiled warmly at Kiara and went to hug her when Dimitri let out an angry cry. “Jeez!” Kiara laughed. “Dimitri clearly doesn’t like his personal space being invaded.”

“Must get that from Peter,” Rhea smirked.

“We heard about the oracle trying to have you killed,” Alice said. “Is there anything we can do to help?”

Kiara shook her head with a frown. “At this point, Jackson is our only hope. He’s talking to the guys now. The oracle says my baby will bring about the apocalypse. But Jackson thinks he can convince the oracle otherwise. He just has to persuade her to let the baby live by the same rituals she allowed Jackson to live.”

“Hmm...” Alice thought. “So, you’ll need time... Well, since you have a tribrid, the baby will most likely grow at a faster rate than normal. We can give you a potion to slow the baby’s development to that of a human child. At least, it can give you more time.”

Kiara looked at Gina. “What do you think?”

“Time isn’t on our side at all, so that might actually work. The more time we have, the more contingency plans we can come up with,” Gina said.

Kiara looked at Alice and smiled. “Thank you for this.”

Alice nodded. “We’ll get the potions to you right away. Good luck with the oracle.”

~*~

“Do you believe him?” Leo asked Alexander as they spoke lowly in the corridor.

Alexander rubbed the bottom of his chin as he eyed Jackson still talking to Nick and Elijah. He glanced over at Kiara sitting on the couch between Rhea and Ava as she held Dimitri in her arms. His eyes softened with her in his sight. She looked angelic. He felt his heart beat faster as he tried to picture her eventually holding his own child.

Alexander looked at Leo and exhaled his angst. “I just want her safe, Leo. Our alternative to this... is risking the lives of everyone we love, including her. This oracle has the power to turn us against her. We hurt her last time. We almost killed her and our unborn.”

Leo twisted his jaw and ran his fingers through his hair in frustration as he remembered how they attacked her. “I want her safe too...” he muttered as he glanced at Kiara. “I just...”

“I know,” Alexander said. “We’ll give him a shot... one chance. If he tries anything...”

Leo looked at Alexander. “We’ll kill him,” Leo finished. Alexander nodded in agreement. They turned to see Nick and Elijah finishing up their conversation as Nick clapped his hands together to get everyone’s attention.

“Alright,” Nick said. “After much deliberation, Elijah and I have decided that Jackson here is worth giving a chance. However, Alexander and Leo are the ones with the final decision here since Kiara is their mate.”

Everyone in the room looked at Alexander and Leo, but both of them were already looking at Kiara. She gave them a pleading look that tugged at them a little more than they wanted. “We approve,” Alexander said as Leo muttered under his breath.

A huge smile decorated Kiara’s face as she handed Dimitri to Ava and walked up to her two lovers. She threw her arms around Alexander’s neck and firmly planted her lips against his. “Thank you, guys!” she said, squeezing him tightly. She caught Leo still grumbling to himself and grabbed his hand to pull her towards him. “Leo...”

“I’m fucking annoyed, Angel,” Leo growled.

“Then let me help,” she smirked. She shifted her hands underneath his shirt, touching his abs as she tilted her head up to kiss him.

~

“So, what are the chances this oracle will listen to what you have to say?”

Jackson tore his eyes away from watching Kiara make out with Alexander and Leo and glanced at Nick and Elijah standing in front of him. “Chances she’ll listen? Very high. Chances she’ll agree... I’m not so sure... She’s a fickle entity,” Jackson sighed. “But... it’s better than nothing.”

“Don’t really like those odds,” Nick muttered.

“If worse comes to worst... we fight,” Elijah said.

“Worse comes to worst, she’ll turn you all against us, and you’ll be mauling your mates to death,” Gina said, interrupting them. “We need a better backup plan than that, Elijah...”

“She’s right,” Jackson said. “As much as I’d like to think I can persuade her otherwise, you need to have a contingency plan.”

Elijah glanced at Nick as he rubbed his chin. “We can’t let them go alone...”

“Rose will be there,” Kiara spoke up. Elijah glanced over his shoulder to see Kiara walking towards him.

“What is she your bodyguard now?” Cole smirked.

Kiara rolled her eyes. “She’s my friend.”

“Alexander, don’t you find it weird that your mate is friends with your ex-fuck buddy,” Cole teased.

“You wanna take this outside?” Alexander said, looking at him as Leo burst into hysterical laughter.

“Can we focus here?” Gina said, annoyed. “Fucking children.” She turned to Kiara. “Makiko and Rhea have been working on a potion that makes the men resistant to the effects of a siren. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near perfect. Resistance lasts only up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes tops.”

Kiara twisted her mouth. “That’s better than nothing. That gives us 15 minutes to attack her and her sirens all at once, with a safety net of 5 minutes. We’ll have to be prepared in the event that she has weaponized other vampires and wolves against us. The Volkovs can handle the wolves. The Blackbournes the vampires. Rhea, Ava, and Marshala cover the sirens... I’ll take Kifo.”

The room grew silent as they all looked at her. “Are you sure, Kiara?” Gina said finally. “Kifo is...”

“Powerful. I know,” Kiara said. “But, so am I. And I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’ve been working on. Besides...” she touched her belly and looked at Leo and Alexander. “..it’s personal..”

“Alright, well you heard the lady,” Nick said. “You guys have your marching orders.”

“Jackson,” Elijah said, looking at the hybrid. “Let’s hope we can avoid this... bloodshed.”

Jackson nodded before he looked back at Kiara who was nestled into the comforting embrace of her two lovers.

~

“So, am I like... part of the family now?”

Kiara walked along the grassy path and looked at Rose with a smirk. “Sure, Rose. You can be part of the family.”

“YUSSSSS!” she said, pumping her arm in the air. “Oh my gosh, let’s do girly mortal stuff! Like do each other’s nails and watch scary movies and talk about BOYS!”

“Rose... I’m mated and pregnant and about to face an oracle that could kill all my family and friends,” Kiara said with a quirked brow.

“Oh...” Rose said, looking down. “Okay, but after that.”

Kiara burst into laughter. “Something’s seriously wrong with you.” Rose shrugged with a smirk before her smile fell. She glanced up to see everyone else walking ahead of them before she looked at Kiara with stormy blue eyes. “Woah,” Kiara said. “What’s with the face?”

“I really like you, Barbie.”

“Oh... Rose, you know I don’t roll that way.”

“No, not like that! I mean sort of like that, but that’s not what I mean right now,” Rose said. Kiara looked at her curiously as Rose took a deep breath. “I didn’t want to like you at first because I was like ‘shit that bitch stole my man’. But you’re like... really fucking likable. And I don’t know, I’m sort of attached to you now. You’re like the first real friend I’ve ever had since Alexander. And-”

“Rose,” Kiara smiled, grabbing her hand. “Breathe, hun...”

Rose looked at Kiara and took a deep breath. “I guess what I’m trying to say is... I’m not ready to lose the only friend I’ve had in a while. So don’t die, okay?”

Kiara looked at her surprised before she smiled. “Okay. I’ll try my best.”

“No, I need you to try harder.”

“Damn, Rose!” Kiara laughed.

Jackson abruptly stopped in his tracks and signaled with his hand for the rest of them to stop moving. “She’s close,” he said. “The men need to stay here before we proceed.”

Marshala took a deep breath. She looked at Elijah and Nick who seemed as if they were already regretting this plan. “Perhaps-” Elijah started.

“No,” Marshala said, handing him Dimitri. “We need to do this. We’re not changing the plan now.”

“You’ve only just given birth, Shal. You should stay here,” Nick protested.

Marshala shook her head. “Kiara needs me. I’m not letting her do this alone. Besides, I’ll be back before you know it,” she winked at him. “In the event, we do need you, Kiara and I put a protective spell in this surrounding area. Place Dimitri and Nikolai in that cavern before you come.”

She stood on her toes and gave Nick a kiss on the lips. Nikolai clung to her leg, not wanting to let go. She crouched down and hugged him tightly. “Be a big boy for me, okay?” she said, picking him up to hand him to Nick.

She looked at Elijah whose face was tight with apprehension. “You too,” she smirked at him. “Be a big boy for mommy.” Elijah grinned as he leaned down and gave her a kiss on the lips.

“Leo, you gotta let me go at some point!” Kiara muffled into Leo’s chest.

“I’m not done yet,” Leo muttered as he kissed the top of her head.

“I’ll be right back!” she chuckled as she poked his sides. “Come on!” Leo reluctantly let her go as she smiled up at him. “You guys trust me, right?” she asked, looking between him and Alexander.

“More than anything, iubita mea...” Alexander sighed. She wrapped her arms around Alexander’s neck and gave him a soft, sensual kiss before letting go.

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of Barbie,” Rose smirked as she walked up to Kiara’s side. Kiara shook her head with a chuckle. She walked after Jackson, Marshala, and Gina with Rose next to her. Levi let go of Rhea’s hand and Ava shared one last look with Cole before they both jogged to catch up with the rest of the women.

“This feels so wrong...” Leo muttered.

~*~

“In the event that we all die-”

“OH MY GOSH, ROSE, WHY?!” Rhea groaned annoyed.

“Seriously, who invited you?” Gina said, side-eyeing Rose.

“It’s a legit question, okay?!” Rose blurted. “I have concerns!”

Kiara chuckled. “Go ahead.”

“As I was saying. In the event that we all die, can’t you just bring yourself and everyone else back to life like that time you brought Leo and Alexander back with you?” Rose asked.

“Yes and no,” Kiara said. “As a phoenix, I do have the power of resurrection, but... each time I do it, I lose a part of myself. And each person I bring back with me carries with it a consequence and a toll on me manifested in some disturbing way. There has to be a balance. And there’s no guarantee I could come back let alone bring anyone else with me.”

“Thus, the plan is to not die,” Rhea said. “Right, Jackson?”

Jackson had been lost in his own thoughts as his eyes darted, scouring the area.

“Jackson?” Marshala asked.

Jackson stopped walking and paused for a moment. “She’s here...” he said lowly. “Be on your guard.”

The women looked around until Kiara’s eyes widened. “IN THE TREES!” she shouted. A huge rippled blast came their way as Kiara raised her arms and pushed it back with her magic before it could hit them. Several vampires jumped from the trees on the attack, but Gina and Rose were already on the offensive as Rhea and Ava stood around Marshala using their magic to keep vampires away.

Jackson ran full speed, tearing through several vampires at once. He grabbed two by the neck and pulled their heads from their bodies. Their spinal cords dangled from their heads as their bodies dropped to the ground. “KIFO!” Jackson growled angrily as he tossed the heads to the side.

His voice reverberated throughout the forest as the vampires stopped their attack. Jackson swallowed hard as he took a step back. His eyes focused in on three forms headed in his direction. Rhea eyed the two sirens who looked at her threateningly. Kiara’s hands twitched, waiting in anticipation as Kifo’s ethereal and goddess-like form approached Jackson.

Kifo looked Jackson over and walked around him, taking in his form. “Jackson...” Her voice was soft and lingered in the air like an echo. She stood in front of him and peered into his eyes. Jackson’s jaw clenched as he looked into Kifo’s all-white eyes. A small smile came to Kifo’s beautiful face as she raised her hand and gently caressed his cheek. “Last time we were together... you said you never wanted to see me again...” she said to him.

“Yeah well... I think you can admit it was warranted...” he muttered.

She quirked an amused brow as she pulled her hand away. She looked at Kiara and then looked back at him. “You’ve come to bargain for her life and the life of her unborn...” she mused. Jackson looked at her as if it should have been obvious. “You’re asking for the apocalypse,” she said to him.

“I’m asking for you to see reason,” he said to her. “To be as merciful to her as you were to me.”

Kifo shook her head. “This was a mistake, Jackson. I will not allow it.”

“Then why did you allow me to live?” he asked. “You said the same thing about me. You could have killed me. But you didn’t. Why?”

Kifo looked at him for a long moment. “Because... I saw potential...”

Jackson shared a look before speaking again. “And you think that this innocent child who has just barely formed in the womb does not have... potential?”

“The unborn is an abomination,” Kifo said quickly.

“The unborn is surrounded by a family who already loves it. Is willing to die for it. The child was born out of love, Kifo, just as I was,” Jackson pleaded. “And look how I turned out.”

“You were a fluke,” she said.

“I am a result of your mercy,” he corrected. “The rituals you raised me on. Extend that same courtesy to this unborn. Give it a chance.”

Kifo thought for a moment. She glanced at Kiara who had a look on her face like she was ready to jump her any second if things went awry. “And how would I know?” Kifo continued. “If this child goes down the path of darkness or not?”

“I will train the child myself. Watch over it and Kiara in your stead. I will make sure the child doesn’t fall to the darkness you speak of,” Jackson said.

Kifo chuckled spitefully. “Oh, Jackson. You yourself are not completely without your faults.”

“I have done everything that you have asked, Kifo,” Jackson said angrily.

“Yes, you’ve done well,” Kifo nodded. “But still. You can offer nothing. Nothing that would change my mind.”

Jackson shook his head in defeat. He could sense the women starting to panic as he glanced back at Kiara with desperation in his eyes. Kiara looked at him in confusion, unable to read his expression before he turned back to Kifo.

“Then I offer up my own life as well.”

Kiara’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head. “Hoooolyyyy shit,” Rose said.

Kifo looked at Jackson startled. “You give that up willingly?” Kifo asked. “The last of your kind?”

“Despite how fond you say you are of me, I know how you despise what I am and regret allowing me the opportunity to live...” Jackson muttered bitterly. “So yes...”

The sirens looked at Kifo in shock as Kifo considered Jackson’s proposal. Kifo looked at Kiara and then back at Jackson. “Very well...” she said. Kiara nearly fell to her knees as she watched Kifo float over to her. Kifo took Kiara’s hand and smiled at her. “Understand this isn’t personal...”

“It sort of feels like it is,” Kiara said snidely.

Kifo smiled disturbingly as she touched Kiara’s belly. “I will revisit you in 9 lunar cycles... there will be a red moon eclipse.”

Kiara watched Kifo float away from her and in front of Jackson. He looked up as Kifo caressed his cheek yet again. “I hope you are satisfied with this decision,” she said to him. She turned away from him and headed back in the other direction. “Come,” Kifo said. The two sirens seemed to still be in shock at Kifo’s final decision.

“Y’all got something else to add?” Rhea said, glaring at them. They both snarled at her before turning around and following after their master. The rest of the vampires that had initially attacked them seemed to come back to reality as they started walking away as if nothing had happened.

A moment of silence lingered as no one said anything.

“Did we... did we just... win?” Rose asked.

“Um... we’re still alive, so, hell yea, I call that a win!” Rhea shouted. Ava breathed a sigh of relief as she flew into Marshala’s arms.

Gina walked up to Jackson who was still staring off into the distance. “Thank you,” Gina said, putting her hand on his shoulder. “That was quick thinking on your part. It means a lot to us.” Gina looked at Kiara standing behind him. “To her.”

Gina joined Marshala, Ava, Rhea, and Rose who were having their own little celebration. Jackson turned around to see Kiara staring at him wide-eyed. “Kiara,” he started.

“Are you crazy?!” she said bewildered. “Why would you do that??”

“I-”

“You barely know me!” she blurted. “Why would you just put your life on the line like that?”

“Because you deserve a chance,” Jackson said firmly. “And if I have to continue wandering this earth being the only vampire-wolf hybrid... as alone as I am... then I might as well be dead anyway.”

Kiara looked at him startled. “Jackson...”

“I made a promise to Leo and Alexander,” Jackson said. “And an agreement with Nick and Elijah, provided this actually worked.”

Kiara looked at him confused. “What agreement?”

~*~

“Nothing!” Leo growled. “Fucking nothing!”

“Just hold on,” Elijah said.

“Leo is right,” Cole said, standing to his feet. “It shouldn’t be taking this long. What if-”

“MAMA’S BACK! MAMA! MAMA!” Nikolai scrambled out of Levi’s arms and ran up a hill.

“Niko-” Nick started before he caught Marshala’s scent. “SHAL!”

Leo and Alexander immediately looked at each other when they sensed Kiara and took off in a flash towards her.

“You legit looked like you were about to fight those sirens,” Kiara laughed.

“I mean they don’t want this smoke,” Rhea smirked, clapping her hands. “But I’ll give it to them, shoo.”

“Girl, you are doing far too mu-AH!” Kiara shrieked as Alexander and Leo tackled her to the ground. “GUYS!” Kiara laughed.

“HOLY SHIT, ANGEL!” Leo blurted as he hugged her tightly in his embrace. “FUCK! THANK GOD YOU’RE OKAY!” Alexander chuckled as he sandwiched Kiara between them. They rolled around in the grass, a big pile of mess.

“You guys!” Kiara laughed. “Oh my god, I can’t breathe!”

“This shit is so disgustingly adorable,” Rose smirked as she watched them roll around.

Nick walked up to Marshala and pulled her into his arms as he hugged her tightly, while Elijah walked up to Jackson and Gina. “Considering we were never summoned... I take it everything went well,” Elijah said, looking between the two of them.

Gina smiled as she glanced at Jackson. “It did. You can rest easy.” She walked up to Elijah and held out her hand.

Elijah raised an intrigued brow. “Is this a truce?”

“For now,” she smirked, taking his hand. Elijah grinned as he watched Gina walk away. He set his eyes back on Jackson who was being approached by Alexander.

“We can’t thank you enough,” Alexander said, taking Jackson’s hand. “Kiara told us what you did... There are no words.”

“It was the right thing to do,” Jackson nodded. He glanced at Kiara who was on her toes locking lips with Leo.

“Kiara is very important to us,” Alexander said, catching Jackson’s attention. “There isn’t anything... that we wouldn’t do for her.”

Jackson smiled politely at Alexander. “Yes, I can see that. Your family is truly special.”

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